The Hong Kong Education Bureau (EDB) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft to empower students, educators and schools through mobile, interactive and self-directed learning. Lasting for five years, it extends a relationship between EDB and Microsoft that has existed since 2004.

This latest MoU is the third stage of Microsoft’s Partners in Learning programme (PiL 3.0) with the EDB, bringing cloud computing technology to Hong Kong’s schools. It enables an integrated cloud-based learning platform, providing support for educators and students to teach and learn anytime and anywhere.

Eddie Ng Hak-kim, Secretary for Education, Hong Kong Government, says, “We believe that the cloud-based learning model and practice will help teachers to prepare more interactive and collaborative learning programs for the students, thus enabling the local education sector to harness the power of modern IT and meet the increasing need of knowledge management in the society.”

Under PiL 3.0, 1000 primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong will be provided with Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud service over three years, benefitting 50,000 teachers and 800,000 students. This new technology will enable self-directed learning opportunities for the students and build professional capacity of the teachers.

Principal of C&MA Sun Kei Primary School, Kenneth Cheng Kin Man believes that cloud technology can enable tools for collaborative learning and teaching and streamlining teachers’ administrative work.

The cloud-based education platform allows students to “learn, discuss and collaborate on group projects, engage in instant discussions and co-edit their documents online, which teachers can mark and share more timely feedback on”.

“Teachers can upload teaching resources to the cloud anytime, anywhere for better diversity and flexibility as they prepare for the lessons. Office 365 also simplifies school administration, for instance keeping our school calendar updated and providing meeting documents and records,” added Cheng.

Office 365 will also accommodate the use of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones in education. Moreover, schools will benefit from the subscription model of cloud computing technology, as they no longer have to worry about hardware resources.

In order to effectively use the new technology, the MoU also covers IT-related human resource development. 50,000 teachers will receive online training and overseas exchange opportunities through the PiL Network. 10,000 faculty members will be provided with more than 2000 hours of face-to-face training on e-learning solutions.

The Most Valued Teachers (MVT) programme, which provides select teachers with further training, will be expanded to benefit more than 10,000 teachers. 500 IT technicians will provide the schools with around 200 hours of hands-on technical training. The EDB will provide support by connecting with schools and teachers, and providing training venues.

Hong Kong introduced Microsoft’s first stage of PiL in 2004, initially providing 11,000 educators and 80,000 students with software and training support. The second stage, launched in 2008, saw the introduction of the MVT programme. A comprehensive e-learning pilot programme was introduced at Fung Kai Innovative School. E-schoolbags and e-learning platform were also introduced at Hong Kong Institute of Education Jockey Club Primary School and Salesian School.

According to Becky Lo, Education Lead, Public Sector Group at Microsoft Hong Kong, the goal is to introduce Office 365 to one-third of the Hong Kong schools this year. In the next five years, the PiL 3.0 programme will invest US$ 250 million in the global education sector.